Five bills were introduced in the House Transportation Committee this week for big boosts in state funding for roads, from shifting sales taxes from sales of tires and automotive equipment to the highway fund, to phasing in a 10-cent increase in Idaho’s gas tax, to raising registration fees for cars and semi-trucks, to imposing new fees on electric and hybrid vehicles and a new tax on rental cars. Four were from Senate Transportation Chairman Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, and one from Rep. Clark Kauffman, R-Filer. None are moving forward this year, but all have been introduced in the House for public comment and discussion between now and next year.
Gov. Butch Otter, whose big transportation funding initiative failed in the 2009 legislative session, subsequently appointed a task force chaired by Lt. Gov. Brad Little that studied the issue for more than a year and determined that Idaho needs to spend more than $540 million more annually than it does now to adequately maintain and improve its state and local road system. Otter said today that he doesn’t know if his proposals would have a “softer landing” in today’s Legislature than they did back in 2009, but said, “I think it’s time to begin that discussion.”